IntMath Newsletter - Learning math formulas; Maria’s Story

By Murray Bourne, 25 Jan 2009

25 Jan 2009
In this Newsletter

1. Maria’s Story
2. IntMath Poll results - Why is math hard for you?
3. Math tips - Learning math formulas
4. Chinese New Year
5. From the math blog
6. Final thought - Effort and Outcomes


1. Maria’s Story

I wrote an interesting article about a mathematician who ignored the conventions of her day. She believed women should have the right to an education — and to be taken seriously.

The story includes some of the math that she worked on. You can read her story here:

Maria’s Story.


2. Latest IntMath Poll - Why is math hard for you?

A poll in Dec 08/Jan 09 asked readers what aspect of math they found the most difficult. The main aspects chosen were "remembering formulas" and "understanding formulas".

Poll results:

31%   Remembering the formulas
30%   Understanding the formulas
24%   Understanding word problems
  9%   Drawing graphs
  7%   Notation (signs and Greek symbols)

Total votes: 1700

Coming up in this Newsletter are some hints on how to learn math formulas.

The current poll asks whether you can use formula sheets in your examinations. You can vote on any page in Interactive Mathematics.


3. Math tips - Learning math formulas

With so many people indicating that they find learning math formulas difficult, I wrote a whole article on it. Here are 10 tips for learning math formulas:

Go to: How to Learn Math Formulas


4. Chinese New Year

On Monday 26th January, Chinese all over the world will celebrate the Lunar New Year. What is the mathematics behind the date for this celebration?

Actually, it’s not a simple matter, and it has quite an intriguing history. The Chinese calendar is luni-solar, which means it is based on both the moon and the sun. Since there are around 12.4 lunar months for each solar year, there is a system for inserting lunar leap months so everything lines up. As for the date for New Year, here are some simple rules of thumb:

Rule of thumb 1: Chinese New Year falls on the day of the second new Moon after the December solstice (around 21st Dec).

Rule of thumb 2: Chinese New Year falls on the day of the new Moon closest to the beginning of spring (approximately February 4).

Check out this interesting short paper on Chinese calendars and the date of Lunar New Year [PDF] by my friend Helmer Aslaksen.

To all my Chinese readers, Gong Xi Fa Cai. Here’s hoping the Year of The Ox treats you well.

In other countries, 26 January is Australia Day and India’s Republic Day.


5. From the math blog

1) What is 0^0 equal to?
Can 0^0 possibly have 2 values?

2) Partial differentiation - what is it about?
A reader asks what partial derivatives are all about.

3) Math is the best job
It’s official. Be a mathematician and enjoy the "best job in America".

4) How to Learn Math Formulas
10 tips for success in an area most students find difficult - learning math formulas.

5) Maria’s Story
Maria was a brilliant mathematician in an age when that was a problem.


6. Final Thought - Effort and Outcomes

Seth Godin said that doing a little can give great benefits. Likewise, doing a bit less can mean much worse results.

People mistakenly believe that 4% more effort will result in 4% better results. But in fact, 4% more effort can result in dramatically better results. For the math student, a small amount of consistent effort (working smart) can result in much better math results.

On the other hand, letting things slip can have drastic results. That one assignment that you didn’t have the energy to do could mean the difference between passing and failing the semester.

Results are usually totally out of proportion to effort.

Until next time.

You can subscribe to the fortnightly IntMath Newsletter on any page in Interactive Mathematics.

See the 2 Comments below.

2 Comments on “IntMath Newsletter - Learning math formulas; Maria’s Story”

  1. Sailaja says:

    I enjoyed this addition.Thankyou.
    I have one question for you
    How can we define an integration?
    Explain integration as limit of sums
    Please send me reply

  2. Murray says:

    Hi Sailaja

    You can find a definition of integration in the chapter starting here: Introduction to Integration.

    The limiting sums idea begins here: Area under a curve.

    See also Riemann Sums.

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